Phoenix may already be on the map for its cocktail scene, but a local nonprofit is being recognized for its influence on the people behind your favorite bars, here and across the country.
Amanda Gunderson, CEO and co-founder of Rally Another Round, will receive the 2022 Pioneer award from the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards ceremony on July 28.
The Spirited Awards awards the most prestigious awards that recognize creative bartenders and bars, including the world’s best cocktail bar. When Gunderson accepts the award, it represents the first Arizona-based organization to take it home — or any other Spirited Award — home. In upcoming awards, Phoenix’s Little Rituals has reached the finalists for Best Hotel Bar in the US.
For Gunderson, this is a watershed moment for yet another Rally run, which she and Travis Nas co-founded to provide financial and educational resources to people in the hospitality industry who have traditionally been neglected to advance, including people of color, women and members of the LGBT community.
“It feels like people are paying attention, which means what we do is work,” Gunderson said from her home in Los Angeles.
The Pioneer Award is given to individuals who advance mentorship and remove barriers for those who wish to work in the industry by focusing on equity and inclusiveness.
“Immediately you feel at home and yourself with (Amanda),” said Nas, who is COO of another rally at another rally. “She is a natural guide. With everything she does, she seems so stressed out.”
Another run Another rally started in 2018 when Gunderson and Nas lamented the industry’s perils – from a lack of health insurance to staggering wage gaps. Gunderson noted that a black waiter earns 40 cents for every dollar a white male waiter earns.
When the duo got their start at the nonprofit, they began offering professional development and emergency grants as they prepared to launch a year at Bartender’s Weekend in San Diego in March 2020.
“The entire industry was shut down on March 17th, so we had to jump to fundraising to fight the coronavirus,” Nas said. “We put our heads down and went to work.”
To date, the nonprofit has provided $4 million in support in the form of COVID relief, emergency assistance, scholarships, and professional development to thousands of hospitality professionals across the country.
“We looked at each other and thought, ‘This is what we’re prepared for,’” said Gunderson, an industry veteran with more than two decades of experience.
With bars reopening, the organization can now focus on providing more education, the duo agree. Misty Kalkofen of Boston will lead that programming, starting as a mentor program for female waiters, chefs, and hospitality managers. They’ve run a pilot in Phoenix with bartenders and plan to expand it to other cities.
“We tried everything in Phoenix,” Gunderson says, explaining that this is largely due to the creative and connected community of bartenders here.
“This is just the beginning,” says Nas, who previously ran the bar program at Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn. “We are very excited about what Amanda and Misty are cooking.”